Yes, you may be able to keep your vehicle after a car accident, even if the insurance company deems it “totaled.” However, the decision is a personal one and can be difficult to manage without the right support. When you work with New York car accident law firm Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, we make sure your rights are protected, including your right to hold onto your property should you wish to do so.

When should you keep your vehicle after an accident?

You may want to keep your totaled vehicle if:

  • You have a sentimental attachment to it.
  • You believe you could make more money salvaging the parts.
  • You or someone you know could do the repairs for a reasonable price.
  • The damage to the vehicle is mostly cosmetic and doesn’t impact safety.
  • You’re still paying off the loan on your vehicle and can’t afford to take on a new one.
  • You don’t have the credit or sufficient money, even with the insurer’s offer, to replace your loss.

Is your car really totaled?

The insurer might tell you that your vehicle is totaled if, in their estimation, it cannot be safely repaired. The decision will also be based on make, model, and mileage, what condition your vehicle was in at the time of the accident. It will also be based on what systems were impacted and the cost of local repairs. Typically, autos are deemed a “total loss” when the damage exceeds 65-70 percent of the market value.

Of course, you may dispute whether your vehicle is truly beyond all hope. Insurance companies use software that isn’t publicly available to reach a vehicle valuation. However, you can estimate the market value of it by answering a few quick questions on Kelley Blue Book’s website. You can also look at what cars are selling for at dealers in your area. The cost of repairs factor in as well, so it’s worth getting a few estimates from local collision shops.

How can you save your vehicle after an accident?

If you can demonstrate a good track record of routine maintenance, you may succeed in getting your vehicle another lease on life. You may be able to accept the insurer’s decision for the “total loss” check– which is the cash value of the vehicle minus your deductible–and it will be up to you to have the repairs done.

Are there risks in keeping a car the insurance company has totaled?

Keeping a “totaled” vehicle is not without risk.

  • It might not be safe. Insurers generally total vehicles for good reason. Often, a lot of damage goes unseen and is only discovered once repair professionals begin dismantling. Cracks in the frame or damage to the airbags can put your safety in jeopardy. You may face difficulty passing state inspection, which could mean you are not able to drive your vehicle on publicly-owned roads.
  • It might be hard to sell or insure. You might also run into trouble maintaining auto insurance once your title is “branded” in the National Motor Vehicles Title Information System. Each insurer makes its own rules, but some will not sell collision and comprehensive coverage on “salvaged vehicles.” If you hope to re-sell the vehicle, used car dealers and prospective owners will be able to search the title to see that it has been in a past accident.

Are there any cases where I can’t keep my vehicle if I want to?

One exception to the rule is if you were still paying off your vehicle loan at the time of the accident. Technically, the lienholder– the financial institution you borrowed from– owns the vehicle and has the final say. They typically take their portion of the insurance settlement before you get any money.

Contact us today

You can always count on a free consultation with car accident lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman to help inform your options before taking the next step.